Whittier Area Genealogical Society
Whittier Area Genealogical Society

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March 1, 2023 By: Kristina Newcomer
March 2023
Unless one descends exclusively from indigenous ancestry, it can be assumed that all of those forebears of ours came from somewhere else.  Once those adventurous individuals landed on the eastern shores of America and discovered that there was open land extending to the west, curiosity, necessity, adventure, or other reasons pushed them to migrate into new areas.  Hal Horrocks from the Orange County California Genealogical Society detailed the reasons, methods, and difficulties that our ancestors experienced while moving westward into Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and beyond.
Hal explained that some of the reasons our ancestors moved westward fell into a number of categories: adventure, over-population, religious and political freedom, unrest or discontent, the availability of land offering wealth and power, or just to have a fresh start.  I know that in my family, my Quaker ancestors fled from England to Massachusetts, where they were persecuted by the Puritans.  One branch, the Lippincotts, fled to Rhode Island – a more tolerant location – and then set up permanent residence in New Jersey where they could worship without fear.  A few generations later their descendants were in Indiana and Ohio.  My English Glover ancestors, also Quakers, settled in Pennsylvania, migrated to New Jersey, and over several generations moved to Illinois, Indiana, Kansas and eventually, to California.
After listening to Hal’s talk, I am curious to know how my Lippincott and Glover ancestors transported themselves, their goods, and their livestock to their new homes.   I can’t imagine how hard it must have been to pack up everything you owned, secure your family, including young children, and trek, raft, or wagon over miles and miles of rough land and uncharted water to reach a safe haven.  It can be assumed that many Quaker families moved together, not only for safety from hostile native populations, but also for companionship and communion within their religious family.  Now I need to explore which routes they used to reach their destinations.
Thanks to Hal, I will focus on early maps that show the rivers and trails that facilitated the flow of these brave men and women to find their new homes in their adopted country.
February 2, 2023 By: Kristina Newcomer
February 2023
margin-right: 12px; The headline in the WAGS Newsletter for January asked the question, “Do You Want to Know the Secrets to Better Storytelling?”  Our guest speaker, Bill Cole – the passionate genealogist – delighted us with an enthusiastic presentation about taking the next step in completing our genealogic family histories.  Bill encouraged us to tackle the often overwhelming project of doing something with our research beyond the collection of facts and figures by transforming them into compelling stories.
Why do family history stories matter?  One reason is that writing about our ancestors helps us to understand what shaped their decisions, challenges, successes and how their experiences affected their descendants.  In order to understand who our ancestors were, we need to tell their stories.  If we don’t, their contributions to our lives will fade with memory until they are nothing more than names on a page.
Another reason for writing stories is that events that affected our ancestors in a transformative way are worth telling.  In terms of family history, whatever is felt in the next generation is worth a story.  Not only does family history help us understand ourselves better, it also gives us a connection to our past.  According to Bill, the more stories of the past that we capture, the better.
Genealogy helps us figure out were our ancestors came from, but it doesn’t necessarily make for good storytelling.  You don’t want to become that boring family member who goes on and on about ‘this happened and then that happened’ mode, leaving everyone with a glassy-eyed stare.  Look for information that will grab your reader or listener’s interest.  In any family story, the people will be the most important component so be sure to develop them as multi-faceted, interesting characters. 
Lastly, Bill reminded us that writing is an acquired skill that improves with practice.  He suggested seven writing techniques to help overcome the fear of writing.  Simplified they are: start writing, use visuals/imagery, begin anywhere, use verbs, edit, limit sentences, and paragraph lengths.  I will add one more item to his list, don’t worry about perfection!  Practice, as they say, makes perfect.  So start small, write what you know and “breath more life into your genealogy.”
January 4, 2023 By: Kristina Newcomer
January 2023
December 17th was our second “Show & Tell” society meeting since reorganizing ourselves into a hybrid format.  Despite some sound and video hiccups, we were entertained by members both in-person and online with their various offerings. 
First up was Christine Cohen with a PowerPoint presentation about her Great Great Grandfather “Bobby”.  This branch of her English family had worked in the Cornish coal mines for generations, but her great great grandfather broke the mold and became a London policeman.  His was a true success story.
Cyndy Hartman used PowerPoint to tell us all about her socialite ancestor Madeline (Force) Talmage who married John Jacob Astor IV in 1911.  She was one of the survivors of the sinking of the RMS Titanic in 1912 where her husband lost his life.  Her son, John Jacob Astor VI was born four months later.  Cyndy told us of her poor treatment by the Astor family and her subsequent marriages.  Her story just goes to show you never know who are going to found in your family tree.
The 1950 census was Rick Frohling’s impetus for researching the history of his family’s lives in Illinois.  Realizing that non-genealogists get glassy-eyed when reading data points that are the basics of our research, he decided to expand his findings into a story, incorporating historical references, newspaper articles and ads, even going so far as to research the origins of one of his family’s homes.  He also discovered that he descends from a long line of census enumerators.
Bonnie Morse showed us her wonderful Christmas ornaments made with photographs of her  ancestors in delightful little frames.  She explained that they can be hung from a Christmas tree branch or displayed on a permanent framework.  She also used full sheets of glossy photo paper to write short biographies to accompany the photo of each ancestor, and made sure to write names and dates on the back of the ornaments.  Her thoughtful gifts combine her love of family and genealogy.
Incorporating her love of genealogy and Emily Dickinson, Tracy Winkler who is a member of the Emily Dickinson Society wrote a detailed history of her idol.  Focusing her efforts on this prominent American poet and her background, using Federal and State censuses and following clues to her life, Tracy’s story was printed in the Dickinson Society newsletter.
Gordon Seyffert, who is the director the Immigrant Genealogical Society in Burbank, told us about a patron who came in and requested his aid in identifying the origin of her German ancestor’s hometown.  He walked us through his research methods and the use of Ancestry.com and the vast library at the society to help her trace her uncommon surname.  He also invited us to take advantage of the large German genealogy library available every first and third Saturday at the society office.
It was then my turn to talk about my research into the ancestry of my niece and two nephews through their maternal lines.  I made interesting discoveries about researching Irish surnames and hitting brick walls when it came to finding the Jewish ancestors who fled the Russian Empire to find freedom and success in America.  Along the way I had to learn about the history of the treatment of the Jews and their struggles to survive.  I also discovered one miscreant who changed his ways and a French-German family who have deep ties to Alsace.  My next task is to begin researching the family lines of the mother of my new grandnephew.  My work is never done!
Thank you everyone for your interesting topics.  There is always something new to learn from the stories of others.  I look forward to next year’s “Show & Tell.”

November 29, 2022 By: Kristina Newcomer
December 2022
There isn’t a genealogist who hasn’t found or been stymied by a mysterious gap in their family history knowledge.  It could be caused by missing documentation, incorrect information – such as misspelled names, mislabeled dates or locations – or that unlucky courthouse fire.  Whatever the reason, that frustrating hole in the family tree is not going to resolve itself.  We need to conduct an in-depth analysis of the clues we garner along the way from a variety of sources.
This missing link in a genealogical timeline is what Diane Henriks faced within her own family and by doggedly chasing each and every clue, no matter how miniscule, she was able to successfully fill in those blank spaces.   Following clues may seem obvious, but problems can arise when memories are faulty, family stories have been altered to hide uncomfortable information, or the individuals who may have known the facts have passed away and taken the knowledge with them to the grave.  We just have to cleverly separate fact from fiction.
One of the first things Diane told us was that “there is always some truth in those family stories,” and it is up to us to separate the myths from the facts, no matter how elusive.  Then, use those tidbits of information to focus our research.  Apply the usual research tools; census records, directories, birth, marriage, death, baptismal records, newspapers, photographs, etc.  And keep asking questions until you have squeezed as much information from your source as you possibly can.  Using social media, find individuals who may have useful information, ask lots of questions.  Be relentless.  The more clues you get, the more you can narrow your search parameters.
Once you have narrowed down your findings, Diane suggests that you do a quick descendancy dive into what your research has revealed.  A side-by-side study can help to narrow down your focus, and completing rudimentary family trees on your subjects can help to confirm your results. When you are uncertain about the information that has been passed down from family members, try a “no surname” search on FamilySearch.org to locate the correct family members.
When you confirm that you are on the right trail, be sure to expand your research to include the children and cousins of the mystery ancestor.  By working backward from the various branches of the family, you will be able to solidify your own research without a whiff of doubt.  Remember what Diane Henriks said, “it’s all in the clues, and the proof is in the details!”
November 2, 2022 By: Kristina Newcomer
November 2022
They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, but I wonder how much more can that picture tell us about the people looking back at us from the past?  How do we go about solving the mystery of their identity, our relationship to them, and pinpoint the time and location the photograph was taken?  What can these photographs tell us about our ancestors’ lives, socio-economic status, and who they really were?
According to Jane Neff Rollins – a professional genealogist who specializes in Jewish genealogy – if  we pay close attention to the details found in the images, we can use the various visual clues to answer all of the above questions.  By employing our genealogical skills of patience, persistence, and research techniques, we can solve the mystery of who, how, why, and when our ancestors were preserved on film for all eternity.  All it takes is an organized research plan, an eye for details, and a powerful magnifying glass.  Think of yourself as a modern day Sherlock Holmes seeking clues to solve a mystery. 
 When beginning your research, note the basics of the photograph, such as:
  • Is it black and white, sepia toned, hand tinted, or in color?  This will narrow down the date is was taken.
  • Does it have a frame or borders?  Is it mounted?
  • What size it the photograph?
  • Is there a photographer’s imprint on the front or back? This can provide the location and date of the photo.
  • Are there any personal notes or dates written on the photograph?
Your next step may be to list the questions you wish to answer about each photograph:
  • Is the photograph a formal portrait?  What type of background or props are pictured?
  • Is it a group photograph?  Does it commemorate a special occasion?
  • How do clothing, hairstyles, and posture help date the photograph?
  • Is it a candid or casual photo depicting our ancestors in everyday life?
Jane told us that family photo research requires an observant eye, good research techniques, and keeping good records.  Just like family history research, it is important to cite your photo research sources in order to validate your findings and provide valuable reference points for further research.  According to Jane, a visual history of our families is just as important as our written history. 
Family photographs capture a moment in the lives of our ancestors.  By familiarizing ourselves with the various techniques for identifying photographic clues, we can expand our  understanding of our ancestors’ lives, incorporate them into our personal history, and bring the past to life. 
“A family photograph collection is a direct link to our past – family history is, after all, about the individuals in these photographs, and images can bring the past to life and provide insights into the lives of our ancestors” (Maureen Taylor, Uncovering Your Ancestry through Family Photographs, Family Tree Books, 2005)
October 1, 2022 By: Kristina Newcomer
October 2022
In the past, when I have spoken with non-genealogists about researching their ancestors, they all assume that they must join Ancestry.com in order to find the answers they seek.  As experienced researchers, we know that there are many other repositories that shouldn’t be overlooked when hunting for those elusive records. 
Our September presenter, Ted Gostin, explained that there are “hundreds of other websites (probably thousands)” out there that can provide valuable data usually found only on popular commercial websites such as Ancestry.com, MyHeritage.com, FindMyPast.com, ScotlandsPeople.gov.uk, Archives.com, JewishData.com, Arkivdigital.net, Archion.de/en/, Newspapers.com, to name but a few.
Referring back to those novice researchers mentioned above, I usually steered them toward the many free genealogy and genealogy-related websites as the place to begin.   Not only would they save money, they would also learn how to find and use new sources of information that they believed was only available for a price.  Ted explained to us that depending upon which website was used, different types of records are accessible, such as: indexes + documents, indexes only, index pages only and no images, and document images but no indexes.  It can be rather hit or miss depending upon the site.
Ted pointed out that numerous free genealogy websites can have searchable, indexed databases of birth, baptism, marriage, death or burial records that would normally only be available with a costly membership fee.  The first site he recommended is FamilySearch.org, followed by FindAGrave.com, and USGenWeb.org.  However, over the years I have found many valuable sites just by googling my area of interest.  A few examples of free websites I have used include: FillesduRoi.org, IrishGenealogy.ie, The Quaker Corner,  Matricula.eu, RandomActsofGenealogicalKindness.org, Archive.org, and CatholicCemeteries.org. 
Under the heading of state, county, and local government agencies, a search for vital records  may involve an online request, fee payment, and a delay in receiving your document copies depending upon whether the data has been digitized or is still in paper form, or the size of the staff available at the time of your request.  The thing to remember is that you are dealing with a governmental agency, no matter the size or the scope of their responsibilities, and the wheels of administration can turn slowly.  Some websites that I have had success with are Missouri Digital Heritage, The National Archives of Ireland, NARA, Illinois Statewide Marriage Index, 1763-1900,  and West Jersey History Project.  Ted recommended entering the state and county of your focus and see what sites are available.  You may be pleasantly surprised what you find.
Ted noted that genealogical and historical societies can be valuable repositories of family and local history information.  Depending upon the size of the organization and location, you may be able to access their information online, request copies either digitally or physical copies.  Generally, historical societies focus their efforts on collecting items pertaining to the early history of the surrounding communities, especially journals, wills, deeds and land records.  A few of my favorites are: St. Louis Genealogical Society, Greene County (NY) Historical Society, and The Vedder Research Library (Greene County, NY).
One final place to search for vital records might include public and university libraries that frequently house special collections accessible by permission.  One such local library is The Huntington in San Marino, which houses extensive records about early California history.  Searching online for the topic, individual or family may lead you to discover that they have left valuable papers with their favorite university library.  These documents can contain the vital records you need to complete your research.  It is worth noting that what you need may be located in any number of places, all it takes is a little creative sleuthing.  Let us know if you find a free website that has helped you overcome your brick wall.
 Happy hunting!
September 2, 2022 By: Kristina Newcomer
September 2022
David Flint’s topic focused on English census records from 1841 to 1921, and though my most recent British Isles ancestors arrived in Canada between 1835 and 1850, I was able to learn something new to add to my genealogical knowledge.  As most of my English ancestry arrived during the Great Migration time period, I rely heavily on church records and ship manifests to find the village, parish, and county of origin.  Even when a document is located, I am never quite sure how to correctly list the place name, and looking through Ancestry and MyHeritage family trees it seems that other researchers have much the same problem, as location listings vary widely.  David’s recommendation to use Frank Smith’s Genealogical Gazetteer of England and the FamilySearch.org catalog will go a long way to help me correct previous mistakes.
One of David’s most helpful pieces of information was defining the following headings:  GREAT BRITAIN = England, Scotland and Wales; IRELAND = the entire island; UNITED KINGDOM = Great Britain and Northern Ireland; and BRITISH ISLES = everything, including the Isle of Man, Isle of Wight, and the Channel Islands.  In addition to being able to locate our ancestors under the proper super-heading, our next challenge is placing them in the correct historic county as shown on the map included in David’s handout.  Once we’ve located the county, then we can delve down into the parish or village level of our research.  This can be the tricky part, but the key is to take each family backward, one step at a time, through the census records.
As for me, in addition to church records and ship lists, I will look for deeds and leases, wills, tax and militia lists, and court records as recommended by David to help in properly locating my pre-1841 ancestors.  To aid me in avoiding future place-name mistakes, I have purchased my own copies of Frank Smith’s gazetteer and Jeremy Gibson and Mervyn Medlycott’s Local Census Listings, 1522-1930: Holdings in the British Isles.  Until then I’ll be hopping on the computer to dig into the resources available at FamilySearch.org.
I want to thank David for his wonderfully detailed presentation about English census records and for taking the time to answer the many engaging questions from our membership.  Please let us know if you broke through a brick wall or were able to locate and trace your British ancestors back in time.
See you in September!
August 1, 2022 By: Kristina Newcomer
August 2022
Our July 16th society meeting was a first for all of us.  It was the first meeting at our new location at Sorensen Library, our first hybrid-style meeting, and our first “Show & Tell” of the fiscal year.  I am delighted to say that, despite some kinks that we will work to smooth out, the meeting went swimmingly.
We had attendance at the meeting in person and online, eight presenters, and several members joining in with questions and observations relating to the various topics.  The first presenter was Christine Cohen who told us about her paternal grandmother, Violet Odgers Johns, and her journey from Cornwall, England to Mogollon, New Mexico.  Christine explored all available resources to document her route to America.
Marisa Reyes stepped up next to tell us about a new book, Mexican American Baseball in the South Bay, by Richard A. Santillán and Ron Gonzáles that contains references to her father who played in the Mexican American Baseball League.  Marisa’s mother provided information to the authors before her passing, and Marisa stepped up to complete her work about the players, coaches, teams and others who “dignified the hallowed ballfields” in Los Angeles County.
Have you ever thought that you’d found everything you could about your ancestor?   Well, Rick Frohling’s presentation reminded us that “When You Think You’ve Found Everything There is to Find – Take Another Look.”  With ever increasing digitization of records, you may be surprised as to what you can find today compared to when you first began researching your family years ago.
An article in the WAGS July Newsletter titled “Avocado Facts & Figures” inspired Bonnie Morris to write a poem called “What is it?” about the versatile and popular green fruit.  Do you have a favorite guacamole recipe?  Avocado toast anyone? 
I was the fifth person to give a talk about three of my great-grandfathers who fought in the Civil War and joined various posts of the Grand Army of the Republic.  My 3rd great-grandfather, William Glover joined a post in Indiana, my 2nd great-grandfather, Anton Weis joined a post in Missouri, and my great-grandfather, Theodore Weed who was a member of the 44th NY Zouaves  joined his post in Iowa.  My research was made easier because of Christine Cohen’s June presentation about Fold3.
Detective work by Trish Stumpf-Garcia into the architectural motifs evident in an old photograph allowed her to confirm that her ancestor was in Bad Berneck, Bavaria during WWII.
Susan Astarita, registrar of the John Greenleaf Whittier Chapter of the DAR shared information about the Daughters of the American Revolution and offered her assistance in searching for ancestors and qualifying for membership.  She handed out business cards and informational brochures to interested individuals.
Joining us on zoom, Stefanie Miller told us about receiving a thank you letter from the Allen County Library in Indiana after sending a large group of completed pedigree charts to them.  The letter expressed thanks for preserving the records for future generations of genealogists.  
Lastly, Cyndy Hartman talked briefly about her research into her Smith family from England and the frustration of researching a common name.
Thank you everyone for offering so many interesting topics and to our leadership team for daring to explore the new world of hybrid meetings.  Looking forward to seeing you all next month at Sorensen Library.
July 4, 2022 By: Kristina Newcomer
July 2022
Military flag folding has deep meaning.  The first fold symbolizes life, the second fold represents a belief in eternal life, and the third fold honors and remembers the veterans who devoted themselves to defending our country and promoting peace throughout the world.  At our June meeting, Christine Cohen presented a very interesting program about the military-focused website, www.fold3.com and how it can be a valuable source of genealogical information.  
Christine told us that Fold3 offers access to military records not only for the United States, but also for Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.  Some of the gems you can find may include stories, photos, and documents relating to your ancestors’ military service from the Revolutionary War up to the Gulf War.  Christine noted that the most genealogically relevant documents are found in Service Records, Pension Files, Bounty Land Records (limited to the lucky researchers who have surnames between A and L), maps, lists of Medal of Honor recipients, Enlistment Records, and much more. 
Some of the basics that can be gleaned  from registration cards may include age, height, occupation, birthplace and date, and a designated contact individual.  Using Christine’s roadmap, I found the February 14, 1942 WWII registration card of my grandfather, Walter Charles Weis.  I found out that he was 39 years old, stood 5’11 ¾“, weighed 207 pounds, was light complected, had brown hair and gray eyes.  I was sixteen years old when he died and don’t remember the color of his eyes - all my photographs of him are in black and white - so this description of his features is priceless to me.  Grandpa stated he was born in St. Louis, Missouri, lived at 2912 Potomac Avenue, Los Angeles, California, was employed with the City of Los Angeles as a fireman and listed his mother, Clara, as the person who would always know his address (because she lived right across the street from grandpa and grandma).  Some of this is new information for me.
At the Fold3 site you can create a Memorial Page for your ancestor free of charge.  This allows us to collect a treasure trove of details, to write stories, share, collaborate, and connect with family and friends and remember those who served.  It is important that we collect this information and preserve it for future generations, because it is up to all of us to see that the military service of our ancestors is not forgotten.
To aid in your research, Christine included a website that will help to narrow down in which war your ancestor participated: https://www.ancestry.com/corporate/blog/what-war-did-my-ancestor-serve-in.   Let us know what you discover about your ancestors military service at our July Show & Tell.  I’m looking forward to hearing your stories.
May 31, 2022 By: Kristina Newcomer
June 2022
Christine Cohen’s presentation about the history, purpose and records of the Grand Army of the Republic organization brought to mind the early genealogical research I conducted into six of my  great-, second great-, and third great-grandfathers who fought for the Union during the Civil War.  Early in my research, my initial goal was to locate their regiment, company, and pension status as a means to fill in the blanks of their life stories.  As it turns out, though, by incorporating some of  the resources provided in Christine’s handout, I was able to confirm that three of my ancestors were members of their local G.A.R. posts. I still have two other great-grandfathers who survived in the war whose membership status eludes me, but I plan to keep on digging for information.
Christine told us that the Grand Army of the Republic came about after the end of the Civil War when the surviving veterans began seeking comradeship with their fellow Union servicemen.  Starting as small veteran’s clubs around the country, they coalesced into the G.A.R. in 1866 through the efforts of Benjamin Stephenson and William Rutledge who wanted an organization for soldiers who fought side by side to be able to preserve their friendships and the “memories of their common trials and dangers.”  The only requirement to become a member of the G.A.R. was to be honorably discharged from military service in the Union Army, Navy, Marine Corps, or Cutter Service (like today’s Coast Guard), and to have served between 1861 and 1865.
The G.A.R. reached its largest enrollment in 1890 with close to 500,000 members in almost eight thousand posts.  After the death of the last member in 1956, the G.A.R. was formally dissolved.  Today, the records can be found in various libraries, university collections, historical societies, museums and online G.A.R. projects.  Be sure to check out some of the online sites that Christine listed in her handout.
By following Christine’s guidelines, I was able to confirm that my paternal third great-grandfather, William Edward Glover, although a Quaker, was a member of the Jake Jackson Post #536 in Carlos City, Randolph County, Indiana.  In July 1863 the Civil War had intruded into his peaceful life in the form of Confederate General John Morgan and his Raiders.  William and several of his neighbors joined the 105th Regiment to repel the enemy.  Later, he was drafted into the 9th Indiana Volunteer Infantry and saw action at the Battle of Shiloh, among other locations.  For participating in the war effort, William was suspended from membership at his Friend’s Meeting. Many years later, he was accepted back into the fold and is buried in Cherry Grove Quaker Cemetery beside his beloved wife, Ruth.
My paternal second great-grandfather, Anton Weis, a German immigrant and bricklayer by profession, became a private in the Union Army’s Sappers and Miners company (today’s Combat Engineers) in charge of tunneling, trenching, destroying railroad tracks, and mining.  He later joined the Missouri 4th Cavalry and mustered out in August 1866.  After the war he joined the Harry P. Harding Post #107 in St. Louis, Missouri.  Anton retired from his occupation as a brick mason in 1910 and passed away in 1911 at the age of 72.
Lastly, my maternal great-grandfather, Theodore Dennis Weed, mustered in at age 19 as a private in the 44th New York Infantry, Company I, and served from September 1861 until his disability discharge due to a spinal injury in May 1862 after the Battle of Malvern Hill, Virginia.  T.D., as he was called, joined the C.H. Huntley Post #42 in Mason City, Cerro Gordo, Iowa in 1881 and remained an active member until his death in 1895.  He is buried with G.A.R. honors at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery in Mason City.
The Grand Army of the Republic has passed into the pages of history, a mere memory of the sacrifice, devotion and patriotism of the veterans who helped to unite a divided country.  Credit goes to the G.A.R. for instituting Memorial Day to keep alive in history and story, the sacrifices on the battlefield of our service members both past and present.